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Janet & Tony Celebrate 21 Years' as Volunteers for BBCH

Updated: Oct 13, 2021

When Janet Mottram’s father moved to a Polegate care home in 1998 little did she realise it would soon become a “second home” for her and her husband Tony.

The couple started helping out with small day-to-day tasks when they visited Arthur Hicks before officially being taken on as volunteers at the Bernhard Baron Cottage Homes (BBCH) 21 years ago. Since then they have become involved in a wide variety of roles, culminating with the dedicated duo helping out on a daily basis during the entire 13 months of lockdown.

With staff and other volunteers, Janet and Tony rose to the challenges that Covid-19 created in the home which is divided between 24 individual cottages and 34 en-suite bed-sitting rooms in the main building. To date, as an ongoing safety measure, the cottages and main building remain separated into two communities.

Each day during lockdown the couple, who walk to the BBCH from their home in Wannock, delivered meals on trolleys to the cottage residents. This involved delivering the correct meal choices from three-course menus, with the addition of individual bottles of red or white wine - usually served from regular sized bottles to all residents - when someone celebrates a birthday.

Tony said: “With 24 cottages to go around we soon got to know which residents lived in each one, which we hadn’t done in the past, so it was really nice to get to know them better. When lockdown came you could no longer have four to a table in the main dining room so that’s when the home started doing its own meals on wheels.”

Over the years the couple have regularly helped out on Christmas Day and Bank Holidays and at special events such as musical evenings and outings. They help serve food and clear up, Tony is one of the home’s minibus drivers and Janet assists with the weekly Sunday service and plays the piano. Tony has also driven staff members to Brighton and Haywards Heath so they could have their Covid vaccinations.

The couple have been able to spend more time volunteering at BBCH since Janet, who was also a magistrate, retired from a 34-year career at East Sussex County Council and Tony, retired as a project manager for an industrial heating and ventilation firm. Additionally, they are now trustees of a charity that helps Syrian refugees, are National Trust volunteers and Janet assists with a food bank.

“We like to keep busy!” said Janet. “When my father first came here we started helping out with tea as it was a way of engaging with dad and encouraging him to mix with the other residents and it just went from there. From the minute we first walked into the home when we were looking for somewhere for my father it felt so right.

“Since then we have always been made to feel so welcome and have become part of the family. Before Covid we would usually come in a couple of days a week and more if things needed doing. Then Covid came and we were in every day.”

The couple are part of a team of some 12 volunteers who are a key part of life at BBCH and other duties include running the shop, providing musical and other entertainment, organising and accompanying the hymns at the Sunday service and filling stockings at Christmas.

Summing up, Janet said: “We have a lot of fun and there is such a lovely atmosphere here.”

Bernhard Baron Cottage Homes Managers, Trudi Knight and Jan Andrews paid tribute to Janet and Tony and said -

Janet and Tony are very much part of the BBCH family. The help and support they have given us over the 20 plus years is immeasurable, but since the start of the Covid pandemic their dedication and commitment has been truly outstanding. They really have gone the extra mile or ten! We look forward to many more years of having them work alongside us, in hopefully, less challenging times.

Should you be interested in becoming a volunteer at Bernhard Baron Cottage Homes please ring us on 01323 483613.

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